Observations and expectations on Brazil s presidential election

What do the results of the first round of elections testify to? Should we expect the return of a more “high-profile Brazil” in global affairs?

From empirical observation, the Brazilian elections of October 30 presents the following balance: inaccurate public opinion polls, high polarization (in political, social, and even geographic terms), high electoral abstention in the country’s terms (79.05 %), the strengthening of “Bolsonarismo” as a political force, and the continuity of the “myth of Lula” (da Silva) are the key elements of the first Brazilian electoral round.

Inaccurate public opinion polls

The difference between the outcomes of the presidential elections held in Brazil on October 2 concerning public opinion polls previously disseminated has re-boosted critical comments about these methods, as well as the organizations that carry them out.

At the regional level, such mistakes are being added to the electoral “black swans” such as Argentina in 2019, Bolivia in 2020, and Colombia in 2022.

However, in the face of each new election or relevant event in the public sphere, they are used again. Our “logarithmical society,” has done nothing but increased our anxiety about polls.

High polarization

The results reflected the most polarized election since the return of democracy in electoral terms. Lula and Bolsonaro had 91.53% of the vote. The last election was the one with the least distance between the first and the second competitor: 5.23%. Furthermore

The geographical divide

Bolsonaro will control the south and center-west, the regions with the most industrial and agricultural development in the country. Lula has dominion in the most socially backward and least populated regions in the north and northeast, at a high ratio. Pro Lula forces will control 14 federal states and Bolsonaro in 12 (and Brasilia, the Federal District).

The consolidation of Bolsonarismo

The regional and legislative elections consolidated the growth of Bolsonarismo.                  The “Bolsonaristas” will have available good margins in the parliament and also in very relevant federal states (for example, in São Paulo, the most important federal entity in the country). All key results for the continuity of the Bolsonarista project in the coming years

The Liberal Party (PL) of Bolsonaro added 23 deputies, reaching a total of 99 parliamentarians in its group, becoming the largest parliamentary group in 24 years.

The continuity of the “myth of Lula”

But if there is someone with a long journey marked by resilience is Luis Inácio “Lula” da Silva, the first worker president of Brazil, the one who suffered three presidential defeats before winning in 2002, the one who overcame cancer, the discredit of the media, and was imprisoned in a trial with dubious procedures.

Tentative electoral forecasts

Lula da Silva is the favorite candidate for triumph in the ballotage, even though the election is far from assured.

3 factors will define the result:

The votes of Simone Tebet and Ciro Gomes, thus the votes of Minas Gerais state. 

Although it would appear that in the case of the voters of Tebet and Gomes, Lula would have the hypothetical advantage, since such voters are more inclined to his proposal (Tebet voters on the center, Gomes voters on the left).

But certainly, in strict science, (as it’s said in Spanish) what the voters of Tebet and Gomes will do remains unknown. Regardless of the positions and alliances that these last two can make as political leaders, nothing guarantees that their voters will be “organic” with the stances of their primary candidates.

Brazil s international stance

In the context of the second round of presidential elections taking place, the question is: how Brazilian foreign policy will change if one or another candidate wins?

According to some experts, Bolsonaro’s presidency has become a period of political and economic regression for Brazil. These sentiments were prompted by Bolsonaro’s unpopular decisions during the pandemic (when Brazil became one of the top three countries in terms of coronavirus incidence and mortality), a decrease in the living standards of the poorest segments of the population, numerous cases of corruption involving members of the president’s family, as well as a decrease in Brazil’s activity in the international arena. However, Bolsonaro still retains popularity among Brazilians.

During Lula da Silva’s presidency (2003-2010), the government’s priorities were not only to eradicate hunger and reduce poverty but also to establish Brazil as one of the leaders of the Global South. Today, Lula is betting on these points again in his election campaign, which ensured his victory in the first round and participation in the second round of elections.

In the case of re-election, we can expect continuity in the current stance of Bolsonaro’s administration of isolationism of Latin American and multilateral affairs and the maintenance of the “Western” and “Atlantist” geopolitical code.

While the Brazilian impetus to be a “Global Player” in international affairs (one of the main features of Lula’s presidencies) is no longer the same since the presidencies of Temer and Bolsonaro, is also worth mentioning -and despite the neoliberal and conservative ideology of the last two- the establishing (based on pragmatic management of interests) of a strategic continuity agenda in certain areas, especially in the affairs related to the BRICS countries.

In the case of Lula´s return, attempts to return to “active and proud diplomacy” (in the words of Lula’s advisors on international affairs) will also be undoubted, of strong South and Latin American feature that their previous governments had.

Both sub-continents of the “Patria Grande” are currently suffering from a vacuum of gravitation in the international concert. One of its causes has been Brazil’s distance from regional affairs. Leadership vacuum that neither Argentine-Mexican cooperation could fill nor the “Second Wave” that is currently dyeing pink the region seems to be able to reverse.

If Lula returns, this trend will try to be reversed. Such a challenge is huge. Present conditions in the international context do not make it easy to achieve such objectives, but such goals are as difficult as they are necessary.

Juan Martin Cabanas
Juan Martin Cabanas
Juan Martin Gonzalez Cabañas is a Latin America-based international analyst and political consultant.